Iron Man

by Adam Z. Berenstain, SUNY Cortland, May 10, 2008

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Iron Man, Iron Man,
Does whatever an iron can.
Presses slacks, suits, and cords,
Sharp creases his reward.
Look out!
Here comes the Iron Man.

Okay, I admit that I found that somewhere on the internet. I think. If it’s yours, email me and we’ll take care of things. Definitely email me if you’re Tony Stark. You seem like a fun guy.

Because Iron Man is a fun movie, and Robert Downey, Jr. has a lot of fun in the role of billionaire weapons manufacturer Tony Stark. If you haven’t already seen Iron Man, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: after being kidnapped in Afghanistan by members of the sinister Ten Rings cabal, Tony Stark learns that with great military contracts comes great responsibility and dons the red and gold armor of Iron Man to track down those who use his own weapons against innocents. Stark’s newfound humanitarian streak sparks the hostile takeover of his company by mentor Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) and endangers the life of his assistant and almost-sweetheart Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Even with the repulsor ray enhanced armor of Iron Man and the help of his friend Lt. Colonel James Rhodes (Terrence Howard), can Stark save the day?

Iron Man’s plot is straight out of Superhero Origin Stories 101, and that’s a shame given the cast director Jon Faverau has assembled. Still, every actor shines and energizes the movie by essentially playing themselves. Downey and Paltrow achieve a chipper, jokey chemistry that appears to be a contest between the two to see who can out-improvise the other. Terrance Howard is underused, but his charisma and easy onscreen rapport with Downey make his scenes shine. Sadly, Bridges may as well play a character called End Boss. He does good work, oozing a combination of smarmy menace and fatherly warmth, but in the end there’s little else for Bridges to do but dutifully oppose the heroes like a good antagonist should.

Did I mention the special effects? They’re great throughout the movie, seamlessly blending CGI, a physical Iron Man suit, and lots of nifty explosions. Intriguing subtext about the use of Stark (read, American) weapons for the wrong ends and rehabilitating the Stark (read, American) image in the world is scattered throughout the movie, but Iron Man is about characters, not ideas. Here’s hoping the same cast gets to have some ideas and do more than run through the superheroic motions in the sequel.

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